Marie was more at ease than she thought she would be, away from the Hamlet and the babies for so long. Really, it was just a few hours, and Nyota was with her. Nyota had also traveled around the City, the Town, and the Village in the weeks since their arrival, and had always felt completely safe.

Marie couldn’t keep her eyes off the large man. Moose’s eyes were indeed just like Louie’s and their sons. Other features were very different. For one thing, Moose was as large as a moose. Well over six feet tall, broad shouldered and packed with muscle. He also carried himself with a kind of authoritative confidence she found very… comforting.

She found she did not miss being a queen. Something in the years of exile, being reviled by those she once ruled, had broken her.

Good riddance. There was much that was wrong with the aristocracy. Even as the Queen, I was helpless to change it.

Of course she missed many things of her old life. Primarily, of course, her children. But if they lived, if they survived the terror, she could deal with the helplessness of not knowing.

And she had Sophie.

“…a place I’d like to show you.” Nyota was saying.

“Oh! Here? In the Town?”

“Yes. I’ve never been inside the shop, but the clothing in the window seems like something you might like.”

The four of them passed the Pantheon again, and Nyota led them to a set of glass doors leading to a broad interior corridor. Skylights above let ample light inside, and about a dozen storefronts opened out to the corridor before another set of doors let out onto the next street over. Nyota took them inside a store with men’s clothing and spoke briefly with the salesman regarding payment.

“For now, choose two or three changes of clothes to get by.” Nyota spoke to Moose and Galen. “Later we can make sure you get anything else you might need. I’ve already taken care of the payment. Marie and I will be in the laddie’s dress store at the end of the mall when you’re done.”

Both men looked rather confused, but Nyota took Marie by the hand and they left Moose and Galen with the sales clerk.

Bouton D’Or is French, isn’t it?” Nyota asked as they left the men’s store. “Buttercup?”

Marie nodded. Sure enough, a lovely sign with yellow flowers proclaimed the name of the shop, and the clothing in the window did have a similar flair to the fashions Marie was used to. Letting go of Nyota’s hand, Marie hurried in, cooing and exclaiming over the beautiful clothes.

The store was fabulous. In the front of the store were many ornate dresses of rich, rustling fabrics. Each was displayed on a dressmaker’s dummy, and Marie assumed she could order a similar dress made to fit her. Further back in the store were racks with simpler dresses, much like what Marie used to wear when she played in the garden with Marie Therese in the halcyon days of Louis’ reign. Multiple sizes were available for immediate purchase.

Marie’s pulse danced with the thought of buying new clothes. It had been one of her favorite passtimes…

And the people hated me for my extravagance.

A gasp from somewhere behind her caused her to look up.

“Your highness!”

An older woman was staring at her, hovering between dropping to her knees or throwing herself into Marie’s arms. Marie examined the woman’s face, until recognition dawned.

“Anne!” Marie exclaimed, rushing to embrace the woman. But it was all wrong… Anne was younger than her! But the woman in front of her was unmistakably her old friend, only much older.

An old friend who had been one of the first of the nobility to meet the guillotine.

What Would Have Been

What Would Have Been is a short story (or novella… who knows?) that I am publishing one chapter at a time… as I write it. It’s a fun exercise for me, and hopefully a bit of entertaining reading for you!

This story is dedicated to the Janes. The real ones and the fictional, the ones who survived, and the ones who didn’t. For all of you.

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